India's eighth coronavirus patient was cremated in Kolkata late on Monday night after the police pushed back local people who protested that the funeral at the neighbourhood crematorium may spread the infection.
A group tried to stop the hearse from entering the crematorium around 10.30 pm and targeted the police as they pushed through.
Hostility from neighbours, fueled by rumours that the man had suppressed a visit to Italy, has added to the family's profound grief.
The man's son had sent a letter of consent to the police for the cremation, as required by the government, as he was in the US and unable to come back because of the worldwide lockdown due to the Corona pandemic.
He has requested that if rules permit, the ashes of his father be handed over to the family when possible.
The 27-year-old son is a student at a US university and left Kolkata in July last year.
The rest of the man's family is in quarantine since Saturday. His mother and mother-in-law -- both in their 70s -- and his wife, were whisked off to hospital for coronavirus testing immediately after his swabs tested positive and he was quarantined.
The man's brother-in-law, who arrived in Kolkata on Saturday, was locked up by neighbours at his mother's flat in an apartment building in north Kolkata. The neighbours allegedly acted out of fear that he could be a virus carrier. A family friend had to call the police and the local councillor to rescue him on Sunday.
A friend of the patient, who is helping the family through the traumatic time, said the wife and son were devastated, not just by their bereavement but also by the vilification heaped upon him due to rumours about how he contracted the virus.
The man never travelled abroad; there are all indications that a train ride may have been the cause.
But soon after he was admitted to hospital on March 16, rumours claimed the man visited his son in Italy recently but had hid it.
Other rumours claimed his son had come to visit him from the US, passed on the virus to his father and then gone into hiding somewhere in the city.
The fact is, the man was a Group C accountant with the central government, who went with his wife to Bilaspur for a social event on February 28 and returned to Kolkata on March 2 by Azad Hind Express.
On March 13 he had visited a local doctor, who did not raise a coronavirus alarm. Even at the private hospital where he was admitted on March 16, there was no alarm as there was no history of foreign travel.
He was only declared COVID-19 positive on March 21. He died on March 23 at 3.35 pm after a heart attack.
The rumours about where he contracted the virus were reinforced when Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced his death on live television and referred to him as "the man who went to Italy."
Officially, no clarification has been issued about the rumours.
The man was Kolkata's fourth coronavirus patient and appeared to be the first case of community transmission. The three patients identified before him were all from the UK and the government had repeatedly underscored that all cases in Bengal were imported.